Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that the Obama administration seems to have officials notified Congress of the hostilities they’ve undertaken in Yemen and Somalia, which seems to hint of some law-abiding principles pursuant to the War Powers Resolution:
News of the surprise acknowledgment came in a letter from President Obama to Congress on the evening of June 15 – a six monthly obligation under the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973, in which he is required to inform politicians about US military actions abroad. Obama openly described ‘direct action’ – military operations – in both Yemen and Somalia.
[Obama’s letter said:] “The U.S. military has also been working closely with the Yemeni government to operationally dismantle and ultimately eliminate the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the most active and dangerous affiliate of al-Qa’ida today. Our joint efforts have resulted in direct action against a limited number of AQAP operatives and senior leaders in that country who posed a terrorist threat to the United States and our interests.”
There were similar references to operations in Somalia, with the President noting that in ‘a limited number of cases, the US military has taken direct action in Somalia against members of al-Qa’ida, including those who are also members of al-Shabaab, who are engaged in efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests.’
Previously any such details were reported only in a confidential annex to the reports, with US officials refusing to confirm or deny even the existence of military strikes – an increasingly bizarre stance given the widespread reporting of such operations.
The Wall Street Journal noted that much of the impetus for the partial disclosure came from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
His spokesman told the paper: ‘When U.S. military forces are involved in combat anywhere in the world, and information about those operations does not compromise national or operational security, Gen. Dempsey believes the American public should be kept appropriately informed.’
Unfortunately, the chances the Obama administration will consider using force in Yemen and Somalia as at all up to Congress is essentially zero. That they disregarded these legal obligations in the war in Libya last year is evidence enough. Doubly unfortunate, is that Congress is not likely to exercise its authority in this respect or to even have the inclination to end hostilities in these countries. Anyways, as Woods notes, the WSJ article noted that “officials said details about specific strikes in Yemen and Somalia would continue to be kept secret.”